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Six Sigma - The Customer Angle

Aug 17, 2007
The foundation of Six Sigma is customer satisfaction and cost reduction by using various metrics and statistical tools. This is a customer-focused approach equipped with strategies and discipline at all levels of administration, planning and production. Six Sigma is aimed at achieving only 3.4 defects per million opportunities.

Voice of the Customer

Six Sigma places highest priority on customer data input which provides the much-needed insight into what the customers need and what he or she is thinking about the products already on the market as a measure of performance. The design team needs to understand the requirements of the customer and predict whether the proposed (or the existing) design meets customer expectations.

How Is Customer Satisfaction Ensured?

All business activities are customer centric. Even the best product may not sell if it possesses useless value for the customers. A point in the case is the satellite phone Irridiumę that Motorola developed some time ago. Although it was the first and the best in its class, it failed in the market because the customer did not find any value in that particular product.

1. Customer's Experience Of Defects and Costs: Customers have a different perspective about quality and cost. The variation in satisfaction levels across different market segments and regions needs to be analyzed as a first step towards reaching goals. In Six Sigma, customer input, however scattered it may be, when analyzed can be categorized making way for an in-depth understanding of company goals.

2. Product Relevance: The relevance of any product to the customer stems from its utility, cost and quality. A robust design is not just strong but simple, flexible and idiot-proof. It consistently produces a high level of performance despite huge variations in manufacturing and customer needs. Anything not adding value will not get customer attention.

3. Adjusting Process Capability to Customer Requirements: The need for adjusting the process capability is basically considered in DMAIC (a Six Sigma methodology for existing products), without putting significant burden on the cost. This begins with estimation of financial impact, feasibility studies of the technicalities involved and market uptake. The outcome of these studies will guide any process adjustments.

4. Controlling Process Variations: The uncertainties of processing are the variation that needs to be tackled as a critical step in achieving the 3.4 defect threshold. Uncertainties arise mainly due to a huge number of key elements in a process, outdated process steps and lack of control. Variability surrounding a product or process can be rooted out at the design and analytical stages.

5. Removing Roadblocks: The roadblocks for Six Sigma implementation can sometimes be within the organization, such as trans-jurisdictional roadblocks which sometimes threaten the effective implementation of Six Sigma. The Black Belts need Champions' intervention in removing these roadblocks.

6. Hitting the Finish line: Taking Six Sigma to its logical conclusion is no small matter, even for cash rich corporations. The millions of dollars that it takes for Six Sigma implementation and the long cycle for the results to show can unsettle even the strongest organizations. Finishing the task, despite allotment of huge funds, accessibility to knowledge base, depends primarily on the commitment level of senior leadership and a dedication to customer satisfaction.
About the Author
Tony Jacowski is a quality analyst for The MBA Journal. Aveta Solution's Six Sigma Online offers online six sigma training and certification classes for lean six sigma, black belts, green belts, and yellow belts.
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